"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this is the place of repose"—

"For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods…He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care." Psalm 95:3, 7

The contemplation of God in all His varied attributes may well form a theme of refreshment to His people in every stage of the wilderness journey. Such a contemplation is presented in these combined verses—the majesty and omnipotence of the Jehovah-Lord, in combination with the tenderness and grace of the Covenant-Shepherd.

Although composed at a much later date, the greater portion of the psalm might have been sung by the pilgrim Hebrews as they were encamped under the grove of Elim. A glance over the contents will show how desert symbols and memories color and tinge its phraseology. But it is a song suited for God's spiritual Israel in all ages, both collectively and individually.

After a triumphal prelude or introduction, the psalm divides itself into two parts. The first is a summons by His people to join in this ascription of praise to "the Rock of Salvation;" the second is the utterance or response of God Himself—an earnest and solemn appeal to hear His voice and accept His salvation. It is of the first of these alone we shall now speak.

Two specific grounds or reasons are given for thus "coming before His presence with thanksgiving, and extolling Him with music and song."

(1) Because He is CREATOR. (v. 3) "For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker!"

The Psalmist here makes all material nature around him a temple resonant with praise to its Almighty Framer. And we may imagine what a gorgeous shrine the land of Palestine must have been: not as now, cursed and blighted with barrenness, but as it was, with its mountains and vineyards and olive-yards—its gorges ("the deep places of the earth," perhaps referring to the singular depression in the course of its one illustrious river)—the sea bordering its western frontier—its happy villages, climbing to the very tops of the wooded hills—the pastures clothed with flocks—the valleys, also, covered over with corn! It is the God of this Temple whose glory he proclaims—He who gave strength to these mountains, and grandeur to "the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number."

Not only does he celebrate (v. 3) Jehovah as a great Lord, but as a great "King above all (the heathen) gods." In the mythologies of Greece and Rome, a god was assigned to every department of nature—such as Neptune, Pluto, Aeolus, and others, gods of sea and fire and wind and mountain, rain and thunder and the forked lightning. This great King embraced in His one mighty and powerful hand all these diverse agencies and elements. He was not the God of "the deep places" only, but He was the God of the hills—their strength was "His also." His hands not only fashioned the dry land, but these hands built the rocky caverns of old ocean—"The sea is His;" He "covered it with the deep as with a garment." In the words of the challenge of another sacred singer of Israel—"Who (like Him) has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?" (Is. 40:12).

"God's world is bathed in beauty,
God's world is steeped in light;
It is the self-same glory
That makes the day so bright,
Which thrills the earth with music,
Or hangs the stars in night."

(2) The second ground or reason which the Psalmist gives for his appeal to worship God with thanksgiving and joyful melody is, because He is REDEEMER. This is contained in our second motto-verse (v. 7), where Jehovah is brought before us in His Shepherd character and relation to His people as THEIR God, their Covenant God—"For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand." If the old wilderness of Sinai, as seen from the Elim palms, with its masses and munitions of gigantic rock, furnished the future Hebrew musicians and chroniclers with the favorite and most expressive symbol of Divine power and unchangeableness; Palestine itself, in its grassy hills and sheep-walks, contributed the more endearing emblem for the covenant relation subsisting between God and His people—"The Lord is my SHEPHERD, I shall not lack. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters;" or, as here, "We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture."

If we are called on to praise and adore 'God our Rock' for His natural attributes of power, greatness, wisdom, immutability, how far louder and loftier ought the strains of that song to rise to Him who is "the Rock of our salvation"—who tends the "Israel within Israel," the true people of His covenant fold, with all the watchful affection which the Hebrew shepherd is known to lavish on his fleecy charge—protecting them amid summer's drought and winter's cold, from the lurking wild beast and the human plunderer, and risking his own life in their defense! He who, in the glorious concave of the nightly heavens, as the great Shepherd of the universe, is sublimely spoken of as keeping watch over fold on fold of stars—"golden-fleeced sheep"—"calling them all by their names," has the very same words applied by Divine lips to His spiritual Israel, the flock of His spiritual pasture: "He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out" (John 10:3).

Can we take up the higher note of this anthem? The deist can sing the first—adoring God as the Creator, who made sky, air, earth, and heaven; but can we stand under the shelter of the Heavenly Palm and raise the loftier ascription—"He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hands"? The God of NATURE! Noble, indeed, are the themes and illustrations which that name suggests—the manifested glory of "The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords!" The thunder is His voice; the clouds are the dust of His feet; He walks upon the wings of the wind; His pavilion round about Him are dark waters and thick clouds of the sky—at one and the same moment tracing out the pathway for sun and star, and yet painting the green of moss and lichen, and imprinting the varied tints on the petals of every flower.

But, God of GRACE! "The Mighty One of Jacob, the SHEPHERD, the Rock of Israel."—this "new, best name"—speaks of forgiveness. It unfolds to us not only the Rock in its giant majesty, defying the fury of the desert wind, but it discloses to us fissures in that Rock—blessed crevices—taking shelter in which, the breath of hot wind and storm pass by us unscathed! "We are the people of His pasture." It tells of shepherd love and shepherd tenderness. Every nook of the mountain, every grassy knoll—yes, too, and every bleak corner of these pasture-grounds—are known to Him! What more than this can we desire?—pardon, peace, guidance, direction, support, grace, glory! As an old writer quaintly says, "He leads us in, He leads us through, He leads us on, He leads us up, He leads us home!"

Let the sweet music of this psalm quicken our footsteps through every wilderness experience, until the same Divine Shepherd shall conduct us to the heavenly Elim, by the living fountains of waters, in the pastures of the Blessed!

"Seek farther, farther yet, O dove!
Beyond the land, beyond the sea,
There shall be rest for you and me,
For you and me and those I love.

"I heard a promise gently fall,
I heard a far-off Shepherd call
The weary and the broken-hearted,
Promising rest unto each and all."

"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God."

Home       QUOTES       SERMONS       BOOKS